In Support of Bike Lanes & Public Squares

Two related issues that have caught my attention this morning are the Vancouver Public Space Network’s petition to permanently pedestrianize the 800-block of Robson Street , and David Suzuki’s article in support of bike lanes.  Beginning from the end, Suzuki’s article in the Georgia Straight sums up our current reality with the following statement:

As oil becomes scarce and pollution and climate change increase, people are finally realizing that transporting a 90-kilogram person in two tonnes of metal just isn’t sustainable, especially in urban areas.

It’s important to note this is not a crusade against the car, and Suzuki points out that reducing traffic and gridlock makes it easier for those who are unable to use alternative modes of transportation to get around, while creating many benefits for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users.  With examples from Zurich, Switzerland and Amherst, Massachusetts, Suzuki outlines some of the economic and social benefits of creating mixed-use transportation infrastructure.  He also references  the results of a recent study by Stantec Consulting, published here in the Globe and Mail, which shows that in reality, businesses suffer little and traffic congestion and travel delays are mitigated when bike lanes are present. 

‎Back in November I wrote a letter in support of the permanent closure and expansion of Vancouver’s Robson Square.  The issue is making headlines again, as the Vancouver Public Space Network collects signatures in support of this initiative.  Unfortunately, according to this article in the Straight, this isn’t something that is going to happen immediately, with full transit service set to resume through the square after Labour Day.  However, several City councillors and TransLink support the idea of a long-term study to create a transportation plan that would enable the permanent closure of the 800-block of Robson St. and expansion of a public square, while meeting the east-west transportation requirements of transit users in the downtown core.  As of today, 75% of respondents support the permanent expansion of Robson Square. Cast your vote now!

A Real Public Square

Dear City Council and Mayor Robertson:

Councillor Suzanne Anton is doing this city a great service by introducing a motion to expand Robson Square with the permanent closure of Robson Street between Howe and Hornby. Doing so would give Vancouver something it sorely lacks: a truly pedestrianized public space; a place to stay rather than merely pass through.

Shifting the focus inward, from Vancouver’s picturesque natural surroundings and urban beautification efforts that have been concentrated along the water, to improving the pedestrian realm in the busy downtown core is a crucial step in achieving a truly livable, greener city.

A public square would provide citizens and visitors with an inviting downtown destination designed for play, leisure and informal meetings and gatherings, free from the pressures of consumerism. A large and safe public square in the heart of the city is something many people feel is missing. From an infrastructural perspective, this is a vital step in integrating a vibrant and functional pedestrian and bike-friendly network throughout the downtown core.

Councillor Anton’s timing is perfect because current construction around Robson Square has allowed for months of traffic pattern adjustments. Also, if the Olympics were any indication, Vancouverites are willing to adapt to changes in their commuting patterns and support new public spaces, provided they are designed to attract and accommodate a wide variety of users.

Furthermore, with Vancouver set to host Walk21 in 2011 and aiming to be the greenest city by 2020, now is the time to take bold actions to improve the pedestrian realm. While bike lanes have rightfully received a lot of attention and investment, it’s time for pedestrian issues to become the prominent focus.

Functional and attractive public spaces combined with improvements to the pedestrian realm are crucial in achieving and supporting sustainable modes of transportation, as each and every person is a pedestrian, regardless of which mode they use to traverse the city. People need places to stay, not just spaces to pass through.

Sincerely, Natalie Ethier

Fragmented Geographies

Afternoon School at VIVO Media Arts Centre

Monday, 22 February 2010, 2pm FRAGMENTED GEOGRAPHIES Presented by Natalie Ethier Fragmented Geographies will explore psychogeography, dérive/drift, and the right to the city to raise questions around contested spaces, constructed landscapes and temporal infrastructure created by and for Vancouver 2010. Participants will be invited to create memory maps of the city, tracing their routes through it to show how mobility is affected by the current global spectacle. At the end, instructions on how to conduct a dérive through the city will be given.